What is Hypertension?

Hypertension is a common medical condition that is customarily referred to as high blood pressure. This condition causes the blood to travel through the arteries with an excessive amount of pressure. The force in which the blood presses on the artery walls can cause individuals to have heart problems, a stroke, kidney disease and hardening of the arteries.

Common causes of high blood pressure in adults include underlying medical conditions, such as thyroid issues, abnormal arteries and kidney problems. Factors that can contribute to individuals developing high blood pressure include smoking, obesity, aging, stress and a family history of the condition.

What are the Symptoms of Hypertension?

Common symptoms that indicate high blood pressure include blurry vision, headaches, dizzy spells and a nauseated stomach.

Many people never have any symptoms at all, so it is important that individuals have their blood pressure checked on a regular basis. The standard blood pressure reading for an adult is 120/80. The first or top number gauges the forcefulness of the blood as it travels through the walls of the arteries in the body. The second or bottom number determines the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes after each beat. Frequent blood pressure monitoring is especially important for people who have family members with high blood pressure.

Hypertension Causes

There are two types of hypertension and each has a different set of causes and risk factors. Secondary hypertension is the result of a disease or condition that causes hypertension as a symptom. Patients with tumors in the adrenal glands, those with kidney disease and patients with thyroid conditions often develop hypertension.

Secondary hypertension may also result from taking certain medications. Decongestant medications, birth control pills and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the drugs that most often result in hypertension.

Essential hypertension does not necessarily have a cause. Some people will develop hypertension gradually as they become older. There are risk factors that doctors have identified may be causes of hypertension.

An imbalance of certain minerals in the body will lead to hypertension. Too much sodium or too little potassium will lead to this condition.

There are some lifestyle choices that certainly play a role in increasing blood pressure. Being overweight is a major risk factor for high blood pressure. Smoking and/or drinking alcohol at an excessive level will increase blood pressure too.

How is Hypertension Treated?

Individuals who are diagnosed with high blood pressure are often prescribed prescription medication. Common blood pressure medications include beta blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers and renin inhibitors. Physicians often prescribe a combination of these medications as they all play a part in helping to treat high blood pressure.

Individuals can often control their high blood pressure by making changes in their lifestyle and habits. These include losing weight, becoming more active, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption and restricting salt when eating.

Hypertension Prevention

Preventing secondary hypertension is difficult. The only way to prevent the development of hypertension in this situation would be to successfully treat or control the disease or condition that is the underlying cause. If a medication is the cause, stopping the medication would prevent hypertension.

Preventing essential hypertension is a more straightforward matter. Diet and lifestyle play major roles in hypertension prevention. Eating a diet low is sodium and rich in potassium is important. Bananas, avocados, broccoli and sweet potatoes are all rich in potassium. Eating a low fat diet that limits red meat and processed meats will also help to keep the blood pressure within the acceptable range.

Exercise is also an important factor in prevention. A person should try to perform a moderate amount of aerobic type exercise every other day at a minimum.

It is important to refrain from smoking in order to prevent hypertension. If one drinks alcohol, it should be done only in moderation.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
January 12, 2018